How to Make Beer ā€™nā€™ Bacon Bread

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has had more than a few interesting behavioral side-effects. People are not only stocking up on toilet paper, but also buying more bikes, planting more gardens, and now: baking more bread. With attention and free time fixed on the ancient craft, folks who’ve never given their latest loaf much thought are suddenly becoming newbie bakers. Heck, maybe you’re even one of them. That said, there’s been a run on yeast. Our local Asheville, N.C., grocery store hasn’t had it on shelves for weeks. But no worries. You can still get in on the stay-at-home bread craze with this delicious beer ‘n’ bacon bread. The best part is that it doesn’t require yeast.

beer bacon bread ingredients
Authentic Asheville

Ingredients:

beer bacon bread 3
Authentic Asheville
beer bacon bread dough
Authentic Asheville

Directions:

  1. Cook the bacon. Crispy bacon works best.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Though this is a quick-bread, you can expect the dough to be stiff. It won’t behave like a batter.
  4. Grease the pan.
  5. Put the dough in the pan and use a spatula to spread the dough evenly.
  6. Bake 40 minutes until golden brown.
  7. Let the bread sit for 30 minutes after you pull it out of the oven before cutting into it.
  8. Enjoy with another beer.

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Author: Dave Shively

Dispatches: Exploring the Hidden Mexican Gem of Espiritu Santo

The sun shone a bright light on the island in front of us. As we pulled into the cove and shut off the boat’s engine, the turquoise water lapped against the sides of the panga. The boat was quiet—each of the passengers lost in the beauty of what lay ahead.

Espíritu Santo is no ordinary island. Off the southeastern coast of Baja, Mexico, the island is just 6 miles away from the town of La Paz, but once you get to the sheltered northwestern side of its shores, you feel hundreds of miles away from civilization.

Time stops on Espiritu Santo—the passage of the sun across the azure sky reminds you that time is indeed moving along, but there’s no real connection to the hustle we’ve prescribed ourselves as a normal part of life.

The breeze was gentle and the temperature balmy. The sun kissed our faces and shoulders as we waded into shore. The sand was soft to the touch, almost like mud on a riverbed.

Espiritu Santo was named a Biosphere Reserve in 1995 by UNESCO, and is part of the Área de Protección de Flora y Fauna—Islas del Golfo de California.

The island is just shy of 31 square miles, and is the 12th largest in Mexico. The largest inhabitants are wild goats that roam the hills. Our group never spotted any, although we did stumble upon rib bones and femurs among the boulders. Transfer of energy, life in motion.

Our cove was situated on the northwest side of the island, and was one of the larger, although still incredibly private, indentations into the shore of Espiritu Santo.

Eight canvas tents lined the shore, and our basecamp was situated at the left-hand side of camp, nestled into the small cliffs and rock formations that jutted out into the cove.

The aquamarine water glittered in the winter sun: a gentle light, unlike the harsh hues of summer, illuminated everything with a soft glow.

We would be on Espiritu Santo for four days of camping on the beach, kayaking, snorkeling, and cliff jumping.

Day One

After arriving at our basecamp and exploring the surrounding area, we unloaded our luggage, got situated in our tents, and changed into our bathing suits. It was just warm enough in the sun and shallow water of the cove to splash around, lay on the sand, and take in the scene.

After lunch, we had a quick kayak lesson, and then took to the water, paddling around a small island of rock in the middle of the cove and north around the point, hugging the shore on our left as we made our way back to camp.

Soon enough it was time for dinner, and on our first evening on the island, everyone was in bed and asleep by 9 p.m.

Day Two

I watched the sun come up over the hills to the east—the light playing on the water, the orange and pink hues turning slowly to a bright gold, and sleepy faces popping out of tent flaps in search of the dark coffee our hosts prepared for us.

Today would be a day of adventure: swimming with sea lions.

I floated a few feet back, content with simply watching the creatures play with my peers, when a juvenile swam toward me. It’s an odd feeling being out of your element, let alone surrounded by creatures that are most definitely in theirs, but I was in the mood to embrace the unexpected. The juvenile nibbled my arm in a playful way and swam circles around me, coming right up to my goggles. As soon as he had come, he was gone, already off to examine another in the group.

By this point, my teeth were chattering with the cold and my muscles were beginning to shake and shiver, so I made my way back to the panga. I laid on the bow and soaked up the winter sun, wishing for the intensity of the summer’s rays and watching my friends continue to explore the nooks and crags of the small island of rock.

Photo: Carson Davis Brown

Soon enough, we were headed back to camp for lunch and, in the afternoon, more exploration.

Day Three

We reached the small cove, some 20-minutes north of our own, mid-morning. The air was chilly, and the sea had become choppy. Rumors of a brutal storm, of an early return, were floating around camp.

Espiritu Santo is a national preserve, and for that reason, only certain areas are designated for exploration on foot. The trail we had just arrived at was one such place. It was cool in the cove—the sun had no yet crested the hills completely, and the feeling of stillness that comes with the morning still hung in the air.

We began to make our way upward, along the cliffs, hugging the rocks with our shoes and hands. The air warmed with each step, and soon enough even the thin long sleeve I had put on in the morning was too much. Cacti dotted the surrounding slopes in abundance, and reminded me of sentinels guarding their territory, strong and silent.

One of our guides, Alba, explained that due to the recent heavy rains, many of the small shrubs we were seeing were able to bloom; they cannot grow in dry years, but as we walked among them, I couldn’t picture the hills without them.

We reached the top of the cliffs and came upon an unexpected sight: A wide valley floor, many hundreds of feet below us, opening up as we gazed eastward. The African savannah, in miniature. Half of our group stayed on the top of the cliff to scramble amongst the rocks and boulders, while the other half hiked down into the valley floor and across the wide open plain.

After the hike, we ran down to the cove, now covered in sun and welcoming. We splashed into the water, eager to cool off from our hike, and felt instant refreshment as the cool waters caressed our skin.

As we left the cove and headed back to our own, up ahead, a whale breached, its entire body out of the water. A spout of water nearby showed it had a companion. We raced over to where we had seen them, desperate for another glimpse.

The sheer size of these underwater behemoths boggles the mind, bewitches the sight, captivates the aquatic imagination. Suddenly I was Jacques Cousteau, I was Steve Zissou, I was sailing along on my own journey, and then with the blink of an eye, the magnificent spine was back in the water, my dreams transformed back into mental vapor.

Back at basecamp, we had an afternoon of free time. I hiked alone up into the fold of the canyon—the rock is volcanic, although all I could think was “sandstone” as I gripped the tan and pink folds and boulders, climbing my way eastward and upward.

There was a small well our guide Mario had showed us the day before. Before I could stop myself, a thought popped into my mind: “If I fell in, would anyone hear me?” I gave the well a wide berth and kept to the sides of the canyon as I continued to make my way upward. I heard voices carrying up from the valley floor, and glanced behind me. Another group had come to explore the canyon, and my solitude was broken.

Rather than stay and chat, I jogged back down into the valley, said a quick hello, and went off in search of more solitude.

That night, after we ate dinner, a plan was proposed. Each of us were to take the portable, solar-powered light bulbs that lit our tents each evening and hike over to the other side of the outcropping that separated the two sides of the cove. We were going to form a circle of light.

We each obliged, and danced in the pale glow of the moon and the dim lights. The waves crashed next to us, warm and inviting. A pitcher of margaritas materialized. There was singing, and more dancing. It felt as though we were in our own self-contained world, a cosmic slice of the universe.

Day 4

The next morning dawned, chilly and bright, and we made our way back to the mainland. Warnings of wind had subsided in intensity, but still prompted the crew to lead us back earlier than intended, to avoid whatever inclement weather did intend to come our way.

We landed back at La Paz with the intention of making the most of the day—exploring downtown and the surrounding area. We tramped about, getting to know the colorful and vibrant seaside town. We heard rumors of a hidden mezcaleria, and sought it out that night after dinner. We took in the sights, smells and sounds of the small coastal city.

The next morning, it was time to go.

Departure, friendly goodbyes and assurances of seeing each other again soon, and comforting thoughts of heading back to our own homes, our own scenes of comfort, made richer by the five days spent at Espiritu Santo, an island of dreams.

All Photos By Carson Davis Brown.

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Author: Hayley Helms

Confessions of a Recovered Surfboard Hoarder: The Perfect 3-Board Quiver

April 22, 2008. That’s the date that I officially went into recovery. I know this because it’s the day my daughter was born. It was the day that my surfboard collection changed forever.

When it comes to a surfboard fetish, I had it bad. I was compulsive… an addict even. I’d see a surfboard I like and I simply had to have it. I would sneak new boards in and out of my garage like some kind of polyurethane junkie.

Pro Tip: If you keep all your boards in board bags or board socks your significant other will never know when there’s a new sled on the rack. And if you get all your custom boards painted the same color they’ll never know when you get a new one.

So, in 2008 my daughter was born and, not so conveniently, the bottom also dropped out of the economy. Buying surfboards on a whim became harder and harder to do. Fixing dings and broken noses has never been my forte, but I endured.

It took a few years to realize it, but as time passed I found I was really only riding three boards in my collection of 30 or 40 boards. So, I started selling off my quiver. I posted on Craigslist; I gave away boards to neighbor kids; I “upcycled” a couple into crude hand planes (like ding repair, I also suck at shaping). I held onto a few of my more prized boards, but as far as my everyday surf habit goes, I’m living a much cleaner surf life.

Here is the lean recipe for success that worked for me:

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Author: Jake Howard

The Case for Hiking Alone Now

Solo hiking is a fancy name for walking alone. In this era of social distancing, it makes a lot of sense. If you are working from home with kids, multiple roommates or extended family, quarters can get tight. Venturing out for a few hours (or days) provides exercise, time to think, problem solve, and a chance to hit the reset button. And by hiking alone you are doing your part to keep trails, beaches and parks open to the public. Andy Warhol used to say, “one’s company, two’s a crowd, three’s a party.” Those are wise words for our fight against the novel coronavirus.

We’re living through historic times when personal responsibility and accountability matters. And while staying home and saving lives is a good idea (not to mention the law for many), we’re all eager to get outdoors. But too many people heading out at once threatens access for all; California has taken steps to close some counties’ beaches and state parks because too many users flocked to enjoy spring weather. French authorities instituted a ban in Paris against jogging during daylight hours for the same reason. Social distancing etiquette for trails, beaches and parks suggests that going solo is best. By walking alone, you are saving lives.

Solo hiking journeys are certainly not new. The ability to walk distances alone through unexplored territory has always been the stuff of legend. Who hasn’t reflected on mountain man John Colter’s wild 12-day escape across Montana in 1810? Or John Muir’s foot-powered forays into the Yosemite backcountry nearly a hundred years later? Or, Earl Shaffer’s solo single-season walk of the Appalachian Trail in 1948? After serving in the Pacific during WWII, Shaffer said he needed to “walk the war” out of his system. And he did. Then seven years later, Emma “Grandma” Gatewood (at age 67) became the first woman to match Shaffer’s feat.

Solo hiking rewards self-sufficiency, organization, and efficiency. And it requires curiosity to explore not only the world but oneself. Though not as sexy as solo climbing, hiking alone requires a similar mindset. And there’s also the benefits: Less impact on trails, plus less noise means more chances to spot wildlife. In a group, you’re only as fast as the slowest member; alone, you set your own pace as the master of your own destiny. For some, destiny means a desire to compete. You can repeat hikes to chase a PB (personal best), or, on classic trails, try for a FKT (fastest known time).

Granted, pandemic precautions have curtailed access to many recreational areas. Through-hikers have been asked to avoid both Pacific Crest and Appalachian trails. But, there are millions of acres of public lands that are open. Every state has a “park” website, as does the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service. In many cases, campgrounds, food services, and even restrooms are shut for the duration, but trails are open.

The rub? Trails won’t stay open if there’s a lack of social distancing. Most maintained trails are from 3-8 feet wide—not nearly enough space for people to walk two or three abreast. If you go it alone, you are making social distancing more manageable for yourself and others. And you’re lessening your chance of a negative social interaction. The American creed of wide, open space was one of rugged individualism, testing oneself in nature to return to society a better part of the collective whole. Now is a good time to walk alone.

KEEP IN MIND:  If you’re hiking in bear country, avoid being out at dawn and dusk, carry bear spray, and follow Leave No Trace guidelines for securing food. Situational awareness is always important whether in the backyard, or the backcountry; more so when you’re alone. And don’t forget to leave word of your whereabouts. William Emerson, veteran solo hiker who completed the Oregon Coast Trail last summer with his dog, Barkley, and his packraft, offers this sound advice: “For safety,” he says, “text or email a trustworthy friend with your plans for the days outing. Make sure they received the message. Check the weather forecast before leaving—cancel your plans if the storm of the century is heading your general direction.”

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Author: Nancy Prichard Bouchard

The Spring Running Gear Starter Pack

It’s not just the change of seasons that has more runners taking to the streets, sidewalks, and trails this spring. The continued closures of big box and boutique gyms across the country has spurred people to take to the streets and run. There’s no easier way to get your heart rate up and burn some calories, after all. Even though running is a fairly minimalist sport, you’re only as good as your gear. If you’re new to the discipline, you need a spring running gear starter pack. And if you’re not, you could always use a few upgrades in your rotation to reinvigorate your resolve to run.

You see, wearing clothes or shoes that aren’t comfortable won’t allow for proper movement, and can hinder your performance (not to mention you probably won’t be super pumped about getting out there for your next run). There’s no one, perfect performance-enhancing piece of gear for runners. What works for some won’t necessarily work for you. That might not sound very helpful, but here’s the silver lining: There’s a ton of gear out there, so you will find what works best for you. We’ve highlighted some of the most universally loved pieces from trusted brands like Tracksmith, Janji, and Nike.

If your workout wardrobe could use an update before you hit the road, start with this must-have spring running gear.

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Author: Ashley Mateo

With Skiing Out of the Picture, Inline Skating Is Surging

On a sunny spring day in late March I was pedaling to the store on the local bike path in Jackson when two Pit Viper-clad dudes in their late 20s flew by me on inline skates. Haven’t seen that in a while, I thought, flashing back to middle school days wreaking havoc around the cul de sac in my skates.

Just a few days earlier, Jackson Hole Mountain Resort had joined the rest of the country in shutting down lift operations for the season due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Grappling with the fact that the next few months would not be filled with tailgate beers in ski boots, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in a pretty foul mood. But watching these guys haul down the bike path with smiles that are usually reserved for 10-inch storm days and free breakfast burritos, I saw a glimmer of hope for the coming spring months.

With spring turns off the table, some (overwhelmingly productive folk) are finding solace in house projects and home workout videos. Others are watching re-screens of old ski movies or engaging in Instagram push up challenges (please stop tagging me). A massive amount of skiers, however, are inline skating.

rollerblades
Skating uses similar balance points, engages many of the same muscle groups from skiing, and many moves use the same body position. Former World Cup racers Katie Ryan and Brennan Rubie reap the rewards. Photo: Courtesy of Greg Mirzoyan/Rollerblade

 

Tom Hyser, Product Marketing Manager at Rollerblade, said that in the last eight weeks, inline skates have seen at least a 300-percent increase in demand. “Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve been getting constant calls from retailers asking us to send more skates,” he says. “It’s a great way for people to get outside while still keeping their distance.”

Hyser says the ski community makes up a huge part of the spike in skate sales since it’s such a popular and effective way to cross-train. “A National Canadian Ski Team coach reached out to get skates for their pipe team when resorts closed. Then he called back a few days later to get skis for the slopestyle team.” Rollerblade’s Skate to Ski Program, an off-snow ski training program used by the US Ski Team, PSIA, and the National Ski Patrol, has made the brand popular among skiers looking to stay in shape.

“It has so much cross over strength required for skiing,” says Tommy Biesemeyer, U.S. Ski Team racer who used the Skate to Ski program in his summer training. “My glutes, quads, and low back get crushed when I skate and those three areas are very important for a skier.”

Skating uses similar balance points, engages many of the same muscle groups from skiing, and many moves use the same body position. After recovering from a series of injuries from racing, Biesemeyer turned to inline skating to help him get back on his feet before he was cleared to ski. “It provided repetitive low impact movements that built my strength, creating a strong foundation.”

When Biesemeyer started it was just for training, about 3-5 hours a week. “It wasn’t that cool to go blading with the boys,” he says. “But over the past 10 years it has become more of a thing, and if there’s a good bike path I’ll blade for fun.”

For skiers looking to keep themselves entertained, flying around town on skates provides a taste of that adrenaline rush we crave while we’re not skiing. “I don’t take it super seriously as a training tool,” says professional skier Marcus Caston who’s been skating since he was a kid. “It’s just fun to do and all my skier friends do it in the off season. But you know if I see some good pavement I’ll go make some soul turns.”

John Rushin, Marketing Manager for K2 Skate, says the surge in skate sales during the global pandemic has been massive, but he also attributes it to the revival in 90s culture. The nostalgic appeal of 90s music and style has edged its way back into pop culture in the last few years, and the coronavirus outbreak served as a tipping point for skating. “The 90s are hot again,” he says. “That’s when inline skating really had its heyday. It was only a matter of time for it to come back and we hope we can make it more than a trend or a fad.”

rollerblades
Ryan and Rubie take a break from skiing to enjoy the Wasatch another way. Photo: Courtesy of Greg Mirzoya/Rollerblade

 

Although it may be tempting to dig out an old pair of skates and go full send around the neighborhood, Hyser recommends selecting terrain wisely if you haven’t been out in a while. “Skiers often approach steeper slopes since that’s what they’re used to on their skis,” Hyser says. “But you quickly find yourself going much faster than you’d expect, and it can be tough to stop when you’re flying down hill.” Hyser advises to start out on flat, even ground like a tennis court or parking lot, before venturing onto potentially crowded bike paths and streets.

It’s easy to laugh at inline skaters zipping through cyclists and joggers on the bike path with their knee and elbow pads. I’ve definitely judged. But now I’m starting to think that was maybe just jealousy all along. Because joke’s on us. Skaters are having the most fun out there—and it’s contagious.

This article originally appeared on Powder.com and was republished with permission.

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Author: Lily Krass

The Best Way to Elevate Your Bar Game Is a Good Bottle (or Two) of Vermouth

If you’ve enjoyed a cocktail in the past few weeks, you’ve likely done so in your own home, using whatever ingredients you have on hand. It’s equally likely that if you didn’t have a bottle of vermouth, your options were severely limited. Vermouth—wine fortified with a neutral spirit and flavored with an often-pungent mix of botanicals—is the critical ingredient that makes all your favorite spirits sing, the non-negotiable herbaceous note that makes martinis, Negronis, Manhattans, and any number of related cocktails more than just booze and garnish in a glass.

A fantastic beverage in its own right (pour a good, fresh sweet vermouth over ice with a sliver of orange peel and tell me I’m wrong), a solid vermouth is arguably the single most important bottle missing from many home bars and the key to elevating your at-home cocktail hour.

Think of it like a multiplier for your spirits collection; a simple splash of vermouth can add complexity to the drinks you’re already mixing and make possible a range of cocktails you’re not. If you have more than one vermouth on hand (at least a bottle each of both dry and sweet vermouths), you’ve leveled up yet again, all for the cost of a decent bottle of wine.

The French, Italians, and Spanish have known this for centuries, long-ago embracing vermouth not just as a cocktail component but as a refreshing standalone aperitif, typically served chilled with a citrus twist. But despite taking up an important role in American cocktail culture as early as the late 19th century, American consumers have proved more content to let vermouth live at their favorite cocktail bars rather than in their home refrigerators.

Many consumers’ lack of enthusiasm for vermouth as an at-home beverage or cocktail ingredient may stem from a simple lack of understanding of what vermouth is, says John deBary, former bar director for Momofuku in New York City and author of the forthcoming book Drink What You Want, releasing June 2. “It’s a key ingredient because it’s a freshness component, like a wine,” deBary says. “And I think people may have had vermouth that’s been sitting in a back bar, open and half full, for three years. They try it, and it’s disgusting, and now they think vermouth is gross.”

The fix for this is simple: Treat vermouth like a wine (because it is). An unopened bottle can sit on the shelf for years, but once opened, store it in the fridge. Because of its higher ABV, vermouth will keep in the fridge longer than a typical table wine. But let your nose be your guide as to when to let your bottle go. “It’s not a food safety thing, but it starts to get not-great after a couple weeks,” deBary says. You’ll know when it starts to lose some of its freshness and takes on some oxidized aromas.

An easier solution: Drink your vermouth. As noted above, either red (sweet) vermouth or white (dry) vermouth poured over ice makes for a flavorful, herbaceous, and low-ABV aperitif, best served with a sliver of orange or lemon peel, respectively. A splash of soda or even sparkling wine turns either into a refreshing afternoon spritz.

“To me, [vermouth] is kind of like a cocktail in a bottle in a way,” deBary says. “It’s like someone’s already gone through the work of the ‘mixology’ and put together all these botanicals they think are delicious.” All you have to do is drink up. Below, a few bottles to get you started.

DelProfessore
Clay Dillow

Vermouth Del Professore Rosso
Produced in collaboration with the renowned Jerry Thomas Speakeasy in Rome, this minty, zesty, bitter vermouth was designed as a versatile cocktail component. But it’s just as good in a glass, over ice, as a standalone aperitif. [$28; astorwines.com]

DolinDry
Clay Dillow

Dolin Dry Vermouth
Dolin Dry is a bar staple for those who enjoy a good dry martini (2:1 ratio of gin to vermouth plus a lemon twist if available, and you’re done) or a simple summertime spritz. It also comes in handy half-bottles for those who like the occasional crisp cocktail but don’t care to crack open a whole bottle to make one. A splash of its more lively cousin, Dolin Blanc, can liven up mixed drinks, particularly those involving citrus or soda. [$17; drizly.com]

Cocchi
Clay Dillow

Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
Hailing from Torino—one of just two protected geographical zones of origin for vermouth—Cocchi makes its classic vermouth rosso from a light, fruity moscato base wine and powerful mix of botanicals. The result is light in the mouth, but vibrant enough to stand up to spicier spirits like rye and bourbon whiskeys. Think: Manhattans and Negronis. [$20; totalwine.com]

Medsker_MaisonVillevert
Courtesy image

La Quintinye Extra Dry Royal Vermouth
The difference-maker for La Quintinye Royal Vermouth is another fortified wine, Pineau de Charentes, made in western France and fortified with the same brandy distillate used to make Cognac (and itself an excellent cocktail component). A blend of white wines infused with 27 botanicals and fortified with Pineau de Charentes, this extra dry vermouth makes sense before dinner, after dinner, and across a range of cocktails. Ideal for experimentation. [$24; astorwines.com]

AnticaFormula
Courtesy image

Carpano Antica Formula
Another fantastic expression from Torino, Antica Formula is a favorite among bartenders for its blend of bitterness, spiciness, and vanilla, the latter contributing to a richness not present in some lighter vermouths. A fantastic foil to spicy whiskeys. [$28; 1L; totalwine.com]

Massican_Sweet_Vermouth_Credit_Emma_Morris
Emma Morris

Massican Sweet Red Vermouth
Less a cocktail mixer and more a straight sipper, this sweet vermouth begins as dry white California wines before receiving an infusion of spices including coriander, orange peel, and nutmeg. An homage to the classic Italian Piemonte vermouths of yore, this New World vermouth will set any home bar apart. [$22; massican.com]


Editor’s Note: While you’re mixing cocktails at home during lockdown, many of the people that have long served you at your favorite drinking and dining establishments are finding themselves in a tough financial place. The Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation was founded in 2018 to help those in the hospitality industry that often live a few shifts away from financial hardship. Through direct financial assistance, grants, and an no-collateral loans, the RWCF is running full tilt to help hospitality workers stay on their feet through these challenging times. Consider giving if you can.

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Author: Clay Dillow

Taste Test: Comparing 4 Patagonia Provisions Organic Soups

I’ll preface this review by saying I’m not really a “soup person.” But on my journey toward a more environmentally friendly lifestyle, I recognize the value of a food category that’s nutritious, plant-based, and easy to prepare. There’s a reason soup has been part of the human diet for centuries, a staple meal of which you can find some iteration in nearly every culture.

In fact, it was half a world away in the Himalayas that Yvon Chouinard, famed mountaineer and the founder of Patagonia, discovered the inspiration for his company’s version of Tsampa soup. A mix of sprouted, roasted barley and veggies, the dehydrated soup is one of four varieties offered by Patagonia Provisions.

For a company aggressively committed to sustainability and to “solutions to the environmental crisis,” food is a natural progression in Patagonia’s scope. The food industry is facing a crisis—overgrazed prairies, antibiotic-laden livestock, unsustainable crop systems—and Patagonia wants to find solutions to repair the broken food chain. That starts with an offering of food products under the name Patagonia Provisions that seek to understand their own sourcing.

Johnie Gall Patagonia Provisions Soup
Johnie Gall

Which brings me back to soup: If you’re looking to culinary roots, this is a good place to start. And because there are few things more disappointing than being stuck in the backcountry with a subpar dinner, we decided to taste test Patagonia’s entire soup line to know which variety to reach for next time we ventured out for an overnight backpacking trip.

Patagonia currently offers five varieties of soups and chilis, plus a series of savory grain mixes and breakfast grains. Each dehydrated blend is vegan, certified organic, and non-GMO, and comes in a shelf-stable bag.

All of the soups cook similarly: boil 2 cups of water, cook for a minute, then let sit while covered for approximately 10 minutes (you can continue to heat if you aren’t trying to save fuel).

The bags aren’t resealable, and didn’t hold up well to having hot water poured in them, making them slightly less convenient for backpacking than other blends on the market. In all fairness, the instructions don’t say to cook in-bag, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to try since I’m all for saving weight in a backpack. I poured the mix back in a pot and cooked over a camp stove instead.

Johnie Gall Patagonia Provisions Soups
Johnie Gall

At $7 per bag and two servings per bag, the retail price isn’t all that high for such high-quality and organic ingredients. However, for a big day in the mountains, a single bag feels like just enough food for one person, and even then you may need to add in some of Patagonia Provisions’ sockeye salmon for a truly filling meal.

Johnie Gall Patagonia Provisions
Johnie Gall

Most protein: Organic Black Bean Soup. Chipotle and sweet corn make for a more flavorful take on black bean soup than I was expecting, and with 17 grams of protein, it’s your most filling option. Patagonia suggests adding some avocado slices, Cotija cheese, and a tortilla—I think that’s the ticket to making this one a meal.

Most comforting: Organic Original Red Bean Chili. This is your soup if you’re looking for true comfort food—Patagonia’s version of classic meatless chili tastes home cooked. With red and pinto beans, tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers and both spicy and original options (I tried the original version), this blend is packed with both protein and flavor. It’s a bit salty, but that might be just the ticket after a big day of hiking, so take that with a grain of, well, you know.

Easiest on stomach: Organic Green Lentil Soup. Made with whole-grain bulgur wheat, veggies, spices and green lentils, this soup is hearty without giving you that lead-in-the-stomach feeling. It’s less flavorful than the other varieties, and my least favorite tasting of the bunch, but it left me feeling the most energetic after eating.

Best overall taste: Organic Tsampa Soup. I knew this would be my favorite when I smelled it cooking. It’s a bit salty, but not overpowering, and the chewiness of the barely gave the whole soup a nice texture. A splash of hot sauce or a drizzle of olive oil (and some bread) is all you need to make this a back-at-home dinner favorite, too.

In my one-woman throw down, comparing Patagonia Provisions soup flavors made for a rather non-controversial competition—mostly because all of the soup varieties were nutritious, easy to cook, and really tasty. With every version stacking up on the right side of the taste scale, it’s easier than ever to eat lower on the food chain. I may not be a “soup” person quite yet, but knowing my next backpacking meal is helping transform the health of our food systems certainly makes me want the title.

All photos by Johnie Gall.

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Author: Johnie Gall

The Benefits of Running Alone

Running solo is a good practice for everyone. So says Carey May, Olympic marathon veteran of the Los Angeles 1984 Games. “It requires you to have the inner discipline and desire to run alone,” May says, “and gives your mind space to relax without the need for conversation or meeting someone else’s needs or goals.” Beyond that, running alone teaches your own rhythm, your own natural stride and pace, and it removes the pressure brought on by the competitiveness of running with others. May adds that, “more than anything, you have total control and the ability to turn off any dependency on another person.” In short: It’s your run, your time, your space.

When it comes to running, many of us join a club, or rally a workout partner to keep ourselves accountable. While training with others has its benefits, there’s plenty to be said for hitting the track or the trail on your own—especially now, given guidelines and mandates for safe social distancing to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Here are the top benefits of running alone, according to a number of experts in the sport.

Mental Training

Running is one of the most mentally challenging pursuits, where psychological strength is equally as important as physical strength. When you train with a partner, they keep you accountable and push you through the run’s more challenging sections. When you go it alone, you have to rely on yourself for motivation; as a result, you grow stronger. Running alone allows you to step back, examine personal goals, and establish a battle plan to achieve them.

 

Injury Prevention

When you train with a team or a group, there’s a pressure to show up to every session and keep pace. Training solo, points out physical therapist Dr. Corey Rovzar, allows you to listen to your body and call the shots. You have the freedom to warm up/cool down in the way that maximizes your performance and alters the pace according to how your body is feeling. Training alone also allows the flexibility to take rest days as needed, which is key for staying injury free.

“It’s important to really listen to your body and follow the 10 percent rule,” says Rovzar, highlighting the idea of increasing your weekly mileage in increments of 10 percent. “In groups we tend to push things, so while it can be beneficial from a motivation standpoint, you need to determine if you’re pushing beyond what you should really be doing just to keep up,” Rovzar adds. “It’s important to allow yourself to build up at your own pace and realize that one training program doesn’t fit all.”

Encourages Relaxation

Relaxing may be the last word associated with running, but surprisingly, hitting the trails can be one of the best ways to unwind. When you set out alone, there’s no pressure to go a certain distance or keep up with someone. Instead, you can simply focus on putting one foot in front of the other and soak up the surrounding scenery. With the constant stressors of daily life (notably compounded by the added pressures of self-isolation and stay-at-home orders), quality alone time is an opportunity for a necessary mental-health break.

 

Practice Pacing

You’ve heard of our internal alarm clock attuned to circadian rhythms. Likewise, developing internal pacing as a runner is a similar concept that can yield immense results. Concern with only finding a pace that is right for you helps develop your own rhythm so that come race day, you’ll know exactly when to push, and when to hold back. “Solo training keeps you on task,” says Cal Coast Track Club president and longtime coach Bill Sumner. “When you get two or three elite runners together, they tend to go a little quicker. But when you get somebody out there alone, they stay on pace.”

 

Connect with Nature

In a world dominated by screens, the intentional act of disconnecting is key. Spending time outside comes with a slew of psychological and physical benefits; running provides a platform to maximize time with Mother Nature. While running with a buddy still gets you outside, your focus drifts to the companion and the conversation. To fully immerse, skip the treadmill and log a couple miles at your local wilderness area or park.

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Author: Rebecca Parsons

This Portable Grill Is the Easiest Way to Cook With Charcoal in the Outdoors

It doesn’t get much better than grilling outdoors over charcoal. That smoky flavor is hard to beat, but it does come with its challenges. Coals can be stubborn to light, heavy to transport, and clean up is always a pain. For these reasons, charcoal is sometimes overlooked when it comes to cooking outdoors. That’s where the HERO Portable Charcoal Grill System comes in.

What It Is

If you’re a fan of charcoal grilling, this portable grill is the easiest method we’ve ever tested. It’s light, too (weighing in at less than 10 pounds), so you can take it anywhere—from beach gatherings to campsites to local parks. It’s especially useful if you live in an apartment or have a small outdoor living space that can’t accommodate a full-size grill. The system packs up in its included case with little to no hassle.

hero grill
Photo: Courtesy of HERO Grill

How It Works

Similar to the concept of a Keurig coffee maker, the Hero system uses charcoal “pods.” They’re disposable and burn wonderfully hot for over an hour. Just light it up (we recommend using the HERO Butane Lighter) and let the flammable design do its thing. When you’re done, simply extinguish the coals with water and toss the pod in the compost or trash. It doesn’t get much easier than this.

Why We Like It

The pods are vacuum-sealed and waterproof for transport in any environment. Moreover, the grill itself is dishwasher-safe and the brand says it’ll never rust. The complete system is a true kit, comprising the grill, a bamboo spatula and cutting board, a silicone-wrapped meat thermometer, one charcoal pod, and a heavy-duty, waterproof carrying case. (A two-pack of replacement pods runs $24.95.)

hero grill
Photo: Courtesy of HERO Grill

Nitpick

As we said, one pod will last you about an hour, so if you’re planning on cooking all day for Cinco de Mayo you’re gonna burn through quite a few of those suckers. The grill size is also conducive to cooking for 2 to 3—not an entire family or party. But because this set is all about portability, its size is certainly not a dealbreaker.

[$99.95; herogrill.fireandflavor.com]

GET IT

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Author: Jon Perino